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Still renting your phone? Why?

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Phone companies do disclose leasing fees. According to the Better Business Bureau, some phone bills show a charge for "leased equipment" while other telephone lease companies send separate bills for lease charges.

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"Anybody who has ever reviewed a phone bill knows how difficult those can be to read," Baker says. "And many times, they collect the charge over a three-month period. So you may not see it on every bill."

Baker believes AT&T and other phone companies should identify their customers who've been leasing phones and tell them, "it's probably not in their best interest. They should make a better effort to help those people out."

However, Baker concedes there's a small percentage that may still want to rent landline phones. For example, those who only plan to live at a residence for a short period, he says, may appreciate leasing services.

AT&T will continue to provide lease options as long as customers perceive value in the program, Muldoon says.

But Chuck White, senior vice president of TNS Telecoms, a telecommunications market research company, doesn't think the demand will be for much longer. He says less than 1 percent of phone users rent.

"We don't see enough (phone leasing) anymore to be able to get a hard number," White says. "I can't imagine the revenue potential here is high enough that the phone company is quietly collecting millions of dollars when it comes to these phones."

White believes those who continue to lease phones are "laggers" in adapting to technology.

"When the (business) model changes, there's always going to be some people who just stick with what they had and don't know better to change it in some cases," he says.

But according to AT&T, some people just prefer renting phones. Muldoon says three-quarters of surveyed customers say they own a purchased telephone in addition to the leased equipment. He says customers said they keep at least one leased phone for its quality, dependability and convenience.

Baker sees it differently.

"Some people like the old rotary dial phone. And they think they'll lose that. They say, 'Oh I'm happy with my phone, I'm happy with the way things are.' But they don't realize that's costing them a whole lot more than they need to pay." 

Bankrate.com's corrections policy-- Posted: July 25, 2007
 
 
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